The UK Government rejects recommendations to force fashion industry pay to clean up its act.
Following the release of the Fixing Fashion report in January 2019, an outcome of the 2018 Environmental Audit Committee’s Inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry, the government has rejected all key recommendations of the inquiry to make the fashion industry clean up its act through incentivisation, legislation, and taxation.
These recommendations were informed by expert evidence submissions from scientists, and specialists from industry and academia, based on urgent challenges presented by the unique and complex global fashion supply chain. The evidence highlighted the fact that voluntary schemes are simply not enough, and that stricter government intervention is required to hold brands and manufacturers accountable for their actions.
WRAP’s voluntary Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) was cited by government as a solution in response to several of the recommendations, rather than government led action or legislation. Whilst WRAP’s research has provided notable guidance to the industry, it has faced significant government funding cuts, and is predominantly funded by a limited number of voluntary signatories.
Considering the government has committed to net zero emission targets, it is disappointing to see the rejection of solutions to environmental problems, as well as a failure to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act to increase transparency of supply chains, and increase accountability of brands and manufacturers through an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme.
“Fashion producers should be forced to clear up the mountains of waste they create. The Government has rejected our call, demonstrating that it is content to tolerate practices that trash the environment and exploit workers despite having just committed to net zero emission targets,” said Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh MP of the government response.
“The Government is out of step with the public who are shocked by the fact that we are sending 300,000 tonnes of clothes a year to incineration or landfill. Ministers have failed to recognise that urgent action must be taken to change the fast fashion business model which produces cheap clothes that cost the earth.”
On workers’ rights Mary added: “We presented the Government with evidence that it has failed to stop garment workers in this country being criminally underpaid, despite its claim that the number of national minimum wage inspectors has increased.
“The public has a right to know that the clothes they buy are not produced by children or forced labour, however the Government hasn’t accepted our recommendations on the Modern Slavery Act to force fashion retailers to increase transparency in their supply chains.
“This is plain wrong. The EAC will be closely monitoring steps that the Government claims it is taking to address the problems exposed in our report.”
Below is the Government’s Response to Fixing Fashion Report’s key recommendations:
- A new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme to reduce textile waste with a one penny charge per garment on producers.
Not accepted. Government notes EAC’s one penny per garment recommendation and will consider in development of new Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes. No detail on when EPR scheme for textiles will be introduced; consultation could run as late as 2025.
- Ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold stock that can be reused or recycled.
Rejected. Government considers positive approaches are required to find outlets for waste textiles rather than simply imposing a landfill ban.
- Mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover above £36 million
Not accepted. Government points to environmental savings made by a voluntary industry-led programme but fails to address evidence from WRAP that the impact of increased volumes of clothing being sold outweighs efficiency savings made on carbon and water.
- The fashion industry must come together to set out their blueprint for a net zero emissions world, reducing their carbon consumption back to 1990 levels.
Not accepted. Government points to support for the voluntary Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), co-ordinated by WRAP with the industry working towards targets to reduce carbon emissions, water and waste.
- The scheme should reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not.
Not accepted. Govt will focus on tax on single-use plastic in packaging, not clothing.
- The report calls on the Government to use the tax system to shift the balance of incentives in favour of reuse, repair and recycling to support responsible fashion companies.
- The Government should follow Sweden’s lead and reduce VAT on repair services.
It says little evidence a VAT reduction has been effective in Sweden or that savings have been passed on to consumers.
- More proactive approach to enforcement of the National Minimum Wage with greater resourcing for HMRC’s National Minimum Wage team to increase inspection and detection work
Government says HMRC and other enforcement agencies already taking more proactive approach with increase in budget and officers dedicated to NMW enforcement.
- The Government should publish a publicly accessible list of retailers required to release a modern slavery statement. This should be supported by an appropriate penalty for those companies who fail to report and comply with the Modern Slavery Act.
No recommendations relating to modern slavery have been adopted.
See the full report and recommendations here.
Not sure where to start when it comes to ethical fashion? Read our guide to dressing ethically.